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Digitization Program Site Visit: University of Maryland

I recently had the opportunity to visit with staff of the University of Maryland, College Park’s Digital Collections digitization program along with a group of my colleagues from the World Bank. This is a report on that site visit. It is my hope that these details can help others planning digitization projects – much as it is informing our own internal planning.

Date of Visit: October 13, 2011

Destination: University of Maryland, Digital Collections

University of Maryland Hosts:

Summary:  This visit was two hours in length and consisted of a one hour presentation and Q&A session with Jennie Levine Knies, Manager of Digital Collections followed by a one hour tour and Q&A session with Alexandra Carter, Digital Imaging Librarian.

Background: The Digital Collections of the University of Maryland was launched in 2006 using Fedora Commons. It is distinct from the ‘Digital Repository at the University of Maryland’, aka DRUM, which is built on DSpace. DRUM contains faculty-deposited documents, a library-managed collection of UMD theses and dissertations, and collections of technical reports. The Digital Collections project focuses on digitization of photographs, postcards, manuscripts & correspondence – mostly based on patron demand. In addition, materials are selected for digitization based on the need for thematic collections to support events, such as their recent civil war exhibition.

After a period of full funding, there has been a fall off in funding which has prevented any additional changes to the Fedora system.

Another project at UMD involves digitization of Japanese childrens’ books (George W. Prange Collection) and currently uses “in house outsourcing”. In this scenario, contractors bring all their equipment and staff on site to perform the digitization process.

Standard Procedures:

  • Requests must be made using a combination of the ‘Digital Request Cover Sheet’ and ‘Digital Surrogate Request Sheet. These sheets are then reviewed for completeness by the curator under whose jurisdiction the collection falls. Space on the request forms is provided so that the curator may add additional notes to aid in the digitization process. They decide if it is worth digitizing an entire folder when only specific item(s) are requested. Standard policy is to aim for two week turnaround for digitization based on patron request.
  • The digital request is given a code name for easy reference. They choose these names alphabetically.
  • Staff are assigned to digitize materials. This work is often done by student workers using one of three Epson 10000 XL flatbed scanners. There is also a Zeutschel OS 12000 overhead scanner available for materials which cannot be handled by the flatbed scanners.
  • Alexandra reviews all scans for quality.
  • Metadata is reviewed by another individual.
  • When both the metadata & image quality has been reviewed, materials are published online.

Improvements/Changes they wish for:

  • Easier way to create a web ‘home’ for collections, currently many do not have a main page and creating one requires the involvement of the IT department.
  • Option for users to save images being viewed
  • Option to upload content to their website in PDF format
  • Way to associate transcriptions with individual pages
  • More granularity for workflow: currently the only status they have to indicate that a folder or item is ready for review is ‘Pending’. Since there are multiple quality control activities that must be performed by different staff, currently they must make manual lists to track what phases of QA are complete for which digitized content.
  • Reduce data entry.
  • Support for description at both the folder and item level at the same time. Currently description is only permitted either at the folder level OR at the item level.
  • Enable search and sorting by date added to system. This data is captured, but not exposed.

Lessons Learned:

  • Should have adopted an existing metadata standard rather than creating their own.
  • People do not use the ‘browse terms’ – do not spend a lot of time working on this


Image Credit: Women students in a green house during a Horticulture class at the University of Maryland, 1925. University Archives, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries

Posted in access, digitization, software